David Benchetrit, whose four-hour “Kaddim Wind” movingly and militantly exposed widespread discrimination against Arab Jews in Israel, returns with a much shorter but equally controversial docu on Israeli conscientious objectors. Interviews with five of them are interspersed with extensive imagery of the bombing of Lebanon and the 18-year war that gave rise to their refusal to fight as well as with familiar scenes of Israeli oppression in the Occupied Territories. Blunt, undiplomatic docu is unlikely to travel beyond specialized venues, but its intransigence bespeaks a certain integrity.
The men’s levels of service and military experience range from a seasoned, decorated, 25-year veteran pilot to an armored brigade commander to a young man who consistently refused to serve. All speak of the immorality and illegality of the war in Lebanon, which is often referred to as Israel’s Vietnam. Some look back with the traumatic hindsight of having participated, others with the clear resolve that led them to not be involved from the outset. Benchetrit clearly has a great sympathy for his subjects, himself having been one of the earliest “refuseniks.”
Benchetrit’s color and black-and-white footage surveys the uncompromising devastation caused by war on civilian populations. How, asks a pilot, can you drop a one-ton bomb in a populated area for a “targeted assassination” and not be conscious that innocent civilians will die?
Though the docu covers the growing, present-day refusenik movement, with contempo images of the brutality of the Israeli presence in the West Bank, it is the Lebanon War that determines the pic’s unique viewpoint. As soldiers talk of hauling enemy bodies out of Beirut or express shock over the lack of follow-up to the atrocities in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, their testimony is all the cruder and more immediate because of the docu’s general lack of contextualization. In many ways, the very lack of civility in Benchetrit’s approach helps give the film its powerfully unsettling quality.
Tech credits are suitably raw.